Haverhill Mayor, Councilors Agree to Central Fire Station Repairs; Disagree on Next Steps

Haverhill Fire Chief William F. Laliberty walks city councilors through $3.7 million in improvements made at fire stations in the last seven years. (WHAV News photograph.)

The mayor and city councilors agreed last night repairs to Haverhill’s Water Street fire station will move forward, but other building work may have to wait for a reorganization of the city’s maintenance department.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and councilors largely agreed to the mayor’s plan to spend $500,000 on the central fire station. They didn’t see eye-to-eye, however, on next steps and a timetable for fixing other stations. Council President John A. Michitson said the mayor, as the city’s chief executive, is in charge of “professional management of facilities.”

“That is in your ballpark. That’s you. You are the guy that we’re going to look to,” Michitson exclaimed.

Consultant Michael “Pieter” Hartford said Water Street repairs are focused on replacing the roof, repairing or replacing windows, sealing or repointing bricks on the tower, cleaning ductwork and assessing the condition of a steel beam. While the beam is being reviewed by Bergman and Associates, Hartford noted there does not appear to be any deflection. He said the priority should be on weatherproofing the building before tackling interior issues.

Fiorentini told WHAV two weeks ago, he planned to take the $500,000 to pay for repairs out of the city $11.5 million in surplus. However, last week, city councilor saw a borrowing request on their agenda. The mayor reiterated last night his intention is to use surplus money.

Several councilors took issue with the mayor refusing to pay $125,000, as recommended by the fire chief, to study needs at all of the city’s fire stations. Fiorentini received backing from Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle. Sullivan said the buildings have already been studied and the money is better spent on making obvious repairs.

Both councilors and the mayor placed the blame for delayed repairs on the city’s and school department’s shared public buildings department. For his part, the mayor said he had misgivings about a joint department when he was a city councilor.

“I voted against it and I always felt that I made a bad vote voting against it. But maybe I didn’t because the Joint Facilities Department, frankly, is not working out to be honest about it,” Fiorentini said.

Fire Chief William F. Laliberty said maintenance, managed by the school department, tends to place the schools above all other city building repairs. However, he said it is not true the fire stations haven’t received attention. In the last seven years, $3.7 million has been spent on capital investments. As examples, he cited a number of new fire trucks; floor work, new door, electrical upgrades, generator at High Street; new generator heating and cooling and kitchen at Bradford; new generator, brick repointing, stair resurfacing and a replacement garage door at 16th Avenue.

Councilors pressed the mayor to pay $68,000 for a generator at Water Street instead of waiting for a possible $18,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The mayor said the city learned this past summer it is fourth on a nationwide list to receive money.

Firefighters Local 1011 Union President Timothy Carroll said the city isn’t likely to get the grant because it doesn’t tax to the limit. After the meeting, Fiorentini said the federal government isn’t looking at local tax rates when deciding to which cities to award money. Carroll also called for building a new central fire station that he estimated would cost $4 million. The mayor responded a new station would cost $14 million.

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